Swanton Mayor Gives Background on Development of DORA

At the Swanton Village Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Neil Toeppe related some history and background information to Council members regarding the potential of creating a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in the downtown area of Main Street.  Mayor Toeppe explained that members of the Swanton Small Business Association (SSBA) have been discussing the issue for several years but could not move forward until the proposed area contained four businesses with a liquor permit that allowed the serving of alcohol inside their establishment.  During that time there was only three, Benfield Wines, Hubs and the Swanton VFW.

“Earlier this year the State legislature reviewed that law and reduced the number of permit holders to two if the community has a population of less than 50,000.  So, that meant putting us back into at least having the ability to have a DORA,” said the Mayor.  “There are a lot of Ohio Revised Code (ORC) sections that will have to be complied with if we were to establish a DORA as far as public safety, boundaries, signage, public service sanitation, a lot of those issues.”

Once the law was changed, the SSBA approached Mayor Toeppe with the proposal to establish a DORA, and he, in turn, presented the proposal to Administrator Shannon Shulters and Solicitor Ken Murphree for review.  Subsequently, the proposal was submitted to Council for consideration and, after a number of questions, all members agreed to move forward.

With that decision, the Village must publish a notice in a local newspaper (Swanton Enterprise) for two weeks to inform the community that Council is considering the DORA proposal and then decide how to enact the legislation.  “The attorney has told us we have a couple of options,” said Mayor Toeppe.  “One is we are not required to have a public hearing, but I would suggest that we do that.  Second is that we can either pass this with a simple resolution or through an ordinance with three readings which will give people more of an opportunity to, at least, hear discussions at Council meetings.”

Mr. Toeppe then shared with Council some of his findings when asking   other local community officials that have established DORAs about their experiences.  “I’ve talked to the Police Chief of Perrysburg, the Economic Development Director of Sylvania, the Law Director in Defiance, to the Mayor in Napoleon, the Safety Service Director of Port Clinton, the Mayor of Lorain and the City Administrator of Tiffin,” he said.  “They all expressed zero concerns.  Many of them have already expanded their DORAs because they were successful.”

The Mayor also said he was told that people in these communities do not typically take advantage of the DORA unless there is a scheduled event such as musicians or bands.  “These are usually casual gatherings downtown that encourage participation in DORA,” said Mr. Toeppe.

The initial DORA Plan, including boundaries, hours of operation and many other significant details has been established and can be viewed on the Villages website under Government>Legislation>Pending Legislation>Swanton DORA.  Ms. Shulters as well as Mayor Toeppe acknowledged that some residents have expressed concern with DORA and she believes many of those concerns have been addressed in the Plan.

All six Council members were firmly behind holding a Public Hearing to help ensure Swanton residents would have a voice in the decision on the proposed DORA ordinance and strongly encouraged anyone to attend.  It should also be pointed out that all of the Village’s public meetings are live-streamed of Facebook.

Pictured: Village Council as seated on 9/26/22

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